THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

A de­gree that can be ob­tained with­out hav­ing to study or take any ex­ams is bound to be a scam, right? Not so fast. Ac­cord­ing to busi­ness con­sul­tant Er­win Sniedzins, these were sim­ply signs that the higher ed­u­ca­tion provider that he had found on­line was at the “van­guard” of recog­nis­ing peo­ple who had stud­ied hard at the fa­bled univer­sity of life. “I don’t nec­es­sar­ily like to pay $30,000 (£18,000) to get a master’s when I feel I al­ready have the knowl­edge,” he said in an in­ter­view with CBC News in Toronto. Ac­cord­ing to the news net­work, Sniedzins bought his C$8,100 de­gree from Kings Lake Univer­sity, a web­site linked to Ax­act, a Pak­istan-based soft­ware firm that has been the fo­cus of an in­ter­na­tional de­gree-mill in­ves­ti­ga­tion. A sep­a­rate CBC in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found that hun­dreds of Cana­di­ans could have such fake de­grees, al­though a lawyer for Ax­act told CBC that there was no ev­i­dence that the firm owned or ran de­gree-mill web­sites.

Those who do study hard for a qual­i­fi­ca­tion un­der­stand how valu­able their work is. This was demon­strated by one South African stu­dent who was de­ter­mined that armed rob­bers would not take her the­sis when she was at­tacked in Jo­han­nes­burg. A video of the rob­bery cap­tured by se­cu­rity cam­eras shows Nox­olo Ntuli, a med­i­cal sci­en­tist at the Na­tional Health Lab­o­ra­tory Ser­vice, cling­ing to a bag con­tain­ing her molec­u­lar zo­ol­ogy master’s the­sis on a hard drive. Al­though the at­tack­ers took an­other bag, she man­aged to stop them tak­ing the one with the the­sis in­side, de­spite be­ing threat­ened with a gun, the BBC re­ported on 13 Septem­ber. “I was think­ing about my master’s. I’m al­most done with what I’m writ­ing, there’s no way I will let them take it,” she said, adding that in ret­ro­spect she would not ad­vise oth­ers to fol­low her ex­am­ple.

’Tis once again the sea­son of mists, mel­low fruit­ful­ness and, as Keats didn’t say, the re­turn of the fresh­ers’ week apol­ogy for po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect events. This sta­ple of mid-Septem­ber – pre­vi­ously filled by out­cries over “racist som­breros” and “cow­boys and In­di­ans” par­ties – re­turned with news that a hall of res­i­dence at Lough­bor­ough Univer­sity had been plan­ning a “slave auc­tion” and “slave night” as part of en­ter­tain­ment for new stu­dents, The Guardian re­ported on 15 Septem­ber. “Slave night is an un­ac­cept­able and racist ti­tle,” said Fara­day Hall fresh­ers’ team, adding that the com­mit­tee was “deeply sad­dened to re­alise that we’ve caused of­fence and re­gret that en­tirely”. The univer­sity’s Afro-Caribbean So­ci­ety crit­i­cised “such dis­plays of ig­no­rance and bla­tant dis­re­gard for coloured peo­ple”. “To make mat­ters worse, the event was sched­uled to take place dur­ing our month of black ap­pre­ci­a­tion,” it added.

Gary Neville, the for­mer Eng­land foot­baller, has un­veiled his plans to cre­ate a “univer­sity academy” with the help of ex-Manch­ester United team­mates David Beck­ham, Paul Sc­holes and Ryan Giggs, with Lan­caster Univer­sity and Mi­crosoft help­ing to com­plete the dream team, it was an­nounced on 20 Septem­ber. Based at a new cam­pus in Traf­ford, where de­grees in me­dia, busi­ness and sport will be taught, the in­sti­tu­tion will be called “Univer­sity Academy ’92” – a nod to the 1992 FA Youth Cup-win­ners who went on to star in Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s most cel­e­brated team. Of course, that was also the year when poly­tech­nics turned into post-92 uni­ver­si­ties. Is Neville mak­ing hid­den ref­er­ence to one of higher ed­u­ca­tion’s most im­por­tant turn­ing points?

Chelsea Man­ning, the for­mer US sol­dier jailed for leak­ing state se­crets, hung up on the dean of Har­vard Kennedy School af­ter he called to re­scind her in­vi­ta­tion to be a vis­it­ing fel­low, The Guardian re­ported on 15 Septem­ber. Man­ning ended the con­ver­sa­tion with Dou­glas El­men­dorf as he ex­plained why the fel­low­ship was be­ing can­celled a day af­ter it had been an­nounced. The de­ci­sion came af­ter Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency fig­ures raised ob­jec­tions to Har­vard of­fer­ing the whistle­blower a place in its 2017-2018 vis­it­ing speaker pro­gramme. CIA di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo can­celled an ap­pear­ance at Har­vard and for­mer deputy di­rec­tor of the CIA Mike Morell quit his vis­it­ing fel­low­ship in protest at what they de­scribed as the hon­our­ing of a “traitor”. Amid crit­i­cisms that Har­vard had com­pro­mised on aca­demic free­dom by bow­ing to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure, the dean later is­sued a state­ment say­ing while “more speech is bet­ter than less…in ret­ro­spect [given the res­ig­na­tion of other speak­ers]… my as­sess­ment of that bal­ance for Chelsea Man­ning was wrong”.

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